Wearing A Mask While Exercising Does Not Inhibit Oxygen Intake

Wearing A Mask While Exercising Does Not Inhibit Oxygen Intake

Exercising has not been the same during the pandemic. In fact, it’s been challenging to say the least. Gyms closed, reopened with limited capacity, closed again, and parks or recreational facilities modified regulations to keep people safe. To help limit the spread of COVID-19, most cities suggest or require people to wear face masks while exercising at all exercise venues, both indoor and outdoor. 

In the beginning stages of the pandemic, many health experts claimed that it was dangerous to wear a mask while exercising. Many people claimed that it prevented them from sufficiently oxygenating their lungs. This was amplified by the World Health Organization’s recommendation to not wear a mask during exercise, and the controversy surrounding face masks in the United States. Some people don’t believe in masks, while others follow health recommendations to wear them and keep themselves and others safe. 

The New Exercise Study On Masks And Breathing

Many people are under the impression that wearing a mask during exercise makes exercise more difficult or unpleasant. Well, a couple new studies offer an interesting counter argument to that case. The studies illustrated that breathing through a mask during physical exercise can feel harder, but it does not impair lung function or inhibit air flow. Whether you wear a homemade cloth face covering, N95 respirator, or surgical mask, the exercise does not increase in difficulty. 

The first of the new studies about exercising and mask wearing came out in September 2020 in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. The primary focus was on N95 respirators during exercise. At first, 16 healthy adult men came into the lab to get their vitals checked. The test subjects were fitted with nasal tubes to monitor breathing while riding a stationary bicycle during three separate visits. The men had to pedal to exhaustion, increasing resistance during the ride. One ride had no masks, but the other two rides had either a cloth face covering, surgical mask, or tight fitting N95 respirator. 

No Significant Effect On Lung Function While Mask Wearing

The scientists compared the physiological data from all three rides and found that masking the riders did not make the ride more difficult. The riders also claimed that cycling did not become more difficult while wearing a mask. The only exception was that carbon dioxide levels in the riders’ breaths increased with the N95 respirators, primarily due to the tight fitting nature. Another study determined that that individuals may experience “sensory perceptions” when wearing masks and exercising. These perceptions include difficulty breathing or mild shortness of breath. In reality, the findings confirm that wearing a mask while exercising does not affect cardiopulmonary function in healthier people

A Different Study

In a completely different study, 14 healthy adults (seven men and seven women) completed a cycle ergometry test. They rode a stationary bike until exhaustion once without a mask, once with a surgical mask, and once with a cloth mask. The order in which test subjects rode with or without masks was random. Researchers measured the vitals of each individual during each ride, with a focus on blood oxygen levels. After researchers examined the collective data, they found that wearing a mask did not affect performance or power. Additionally, there were no differences in blood oxygen levels or perceived physical exhaustion

At the end of the day, certain people have reservations about masks. That being said, fitness centers and gyms have opened outdoor areas and require that masks be warn at all times. These new studies prove that exercising with masks on will not affect your breathing or workout in any way. Wear a mask, people, and slow the spread of COVID-19.



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